01 February 2010

EDITORIAL - 24: Day 8

"24": Day 8

Long have I been a faithful follower of 24, the FOX dramatic action thriller that stars Keifer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, who has a knack for having extremely bad days that includes a lot of running and betrayals. It sucks to be Jack, it really does. And from really super-duper extraordinary plot twists and most intense sequences I've seen to craptacular plot lines that are thanklessly given to one-beat characters in order to add 'dimension', I still stuck with the show. For example, there's the amensia storyline(s) from Day 1, Sean Astin's family problems in Day 5, a President having a really bad when it comes to not having bodily trauma in Day 6, and last but certainty not least, a CTU captain who brings her parental issues with her which eventually causes a ruckus in Day 4. At least that got her out of the equation so Jack can do what he does well.

So, yes, I love 24, and I support it and I will (for the most part) defend this stellar series to the best of my abilities. But honest to God, and this is coming from a real true loving fan, Day 8 kinda sucks.

When it premiered three weeks ago, I made it a point to be home at precisely 8 PM and to not be bothered by mom or the girlfriend. A magnificent Fire Baked Red Baron cheese pizza ready to be devoured, and a giant Dr. Pepper to quench my thirst, so I can't say that any feeling of hunger could in any way have impeded my viewing pleasure. As the minutes rolled on, I started to really get into it. Aside from the difficulty of sometimes trying to figure out what President Omar Hassan is saying, I was very much enjoying seeing Jack happy since Aubrey's exit in Day 6 (although their time together that day wasn't exactly the most romantic by any means; they hardly were able to communicate).

Jack's enjoying the family life with his daughter Kim and her husband (that douche from The Vampire Diaries on The CW), not to forget mentioning loving playing with his granddaughter, Teri (a nice ode to Jack's deceased wife from Day 1). Everything's going smooth until a former CI, Victor Aruz (Benito Martinez, a.k.a. David Aceveda from The Shield!!!) shows up, gun-shot, with intel about a hit on Middle Eastern President Hassan. Thus, Jack gets back into the game, rather reluctantly. Everything with Jack from the beginning of this episode ("4:00-5:00 PM") to the third ("6:00-7:00 PM") is pitch-perfect. Loved it. Bravo, writers, bravo. A nice way to bring Jack back into the fold; Kim recognizing her father's unwillingness to let things go (I guess this could be argued, but for the sake of the show, I'll let it go).

But the problem is, there's no jeopardy. The show tries to instill a sense of urgency, but there's none to be found. Aruz informs Jack that the hit on Prez Hassan would happen "today", but by no means gave a time structure, which left a lot of those opening four hours rather lackluster and devoid of any real intensity and drive. Luckily, there's enough action in the first hour, one really doesn't think about it much, but the following three hours of the premiere seem almost directionless. 'Alright, let's throw Jack into this stereotyped predicament so A can get to B and then have C happen.'

And, as per usual in order to pan out the hour running time, the show meanwhile introduces subplots. There's the 'Are they? Aren't they?' when it comes to Hassan and a reporter who gets implicated as the baddie who wants to assassinate him; Chloe o'Brien (Mary Lynn!!!) trying to get a handle of things at the new and improved CTU; and at this new and improved CTU, a retreat of the Day 4 commander-in-chief, Brian Hastings, as he's reluctant to do a single damn thing without evidence or orders (I miss you Bill Buchanan). He vehemently refuses to help Jack follow the lead that he's got, despite the lead being involved with the assassination. And the worst offender of all goes to my dear Starbuck, aka Katie Sackoff, who plays computer analyst Dana Walsh. Apparently she was involved in some murder cover up years ago in Texas under the identity of Jenny, and moved to New York to start anew, but her pesky ex-flame is demanding money and shelter from her. Dana, being the no-backbone gal she is without any personality, succumbs and does whatever he asks for. A pathetic character with a utterly worthless plot that I simply can't see having any relevance to Jack and his wandering.

A hour and some ago, "9:00PM-10:00 PM" finished airing, and honest to God, I couldn't find myself caring for a single one of these plotlines. There could possibly be something intriguing with President Hassan, as the trauma of being the target of a assassination plot could do any number of things to a person.

"7:00 PM - 8:00 PM" introduced us with a new threat, after the whole assassination thing: weapons-grade uranium, which is being brought to American by some Russian mob boss (who has David Anders as a son! It's great to see you around, Mr. Anders! For those who don't recognize, Anders was Tazeko Kensei in the second & third season of Heroes). CTU gets wind of this, and now the race is on to find out who has the uranium and stop them before they can use it. Oh, and it turns out that last season's by-the-rulebook Renee Walker used to be a undercover operative in the Russian mob, and was even beaten and raped by some guy named Vladimir (played by Leoben of Battlestar Galactica!). So CTU gets Renee out of her depression and get back in kahoots with the Russians so she can acquire the uranium and stop whatever big looming threat is in the air.

Um, OK. First, props for bringing Renee back, but her storyline and attitude doesn't reflect the woman she was in Day 7. She was a by-the-book gal, and one would think getting beaten and raped would have done some damage to her (since that took place before Day 7), but apparently not. But, great to have her back. Now, I guess my main issue - aside from the ridiculously stupid subplots - is, as I said, the lack of jeopardy. Perhaps 24 is getting kudos for events occurring a little slower, a little more realistic-like (?), but I don't care: I want that high-heart-racing action of Day 4 & 5. I want a ticking time clock and Jack needs to get something done before the hours up. There's none of that here, six episodes in. Everyone's sorta...drifting, playing through their roles, hoping to end up doing some worthwhile that'll get them a nice clap on the back.

Wanna know what I think the writers of 24 should have done? Huh? Of course you do! A big plot line of Day 7 was corruption, and how Tony Almedia was right in the center of things, ready to unravel the dark shadows of all who were behind terrorist attacks the assassination of the President in Day 5. Day 8 would have been smart in picking up that thread (especially when presented with this as the other option; I'd say this idea would, at least, be more engaging), and have the government corruption be front and center of this season. Who to trust? And perhaps these corrupt politicians are plotting their own pre-Day 6-type catastrophe, with a bunch of terrorist attacks - as coordinated by them - being the precursor of something larger that'll devastate Jack's world. There's still plenty of stories for the writer's of 24 to delve into instead of retreading over tired stories that have lost their compelling touch.

It's disheartening, but for all I know, the best of Day 8 is yet to come, and it's unfair of me to judge this early. It's simply that I expect high class from this show, who nearly always have a strong opening four episodes, and Day 8 is thus far extremely disappointing. The care to keep watching it instead of seeing Sylar choose whether to be a goodie or baddie for the 500th time on Heroes is getting even more difficult with episodes like tonight's. Please guys, improve your writing, and if a Day 9 does come around (which I will, of course, tune in for), make it the best you can, and perhaps the last? Let's have Jack Bauer retire on a strong note.

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